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Driven: New Renault RS Clios have real clout

Latest launches

Cape Town - Renault South Africa has launched some Clios with real clout.

Following a recent midlife update to the bread-and-butter models in the French-built hatchback range, the rapid RS 1.6 turbo versions have now arrived to shake up the baby hot-hatch league.

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They’re available in two guises: the standard 200 Lux version producing 147kW/260Nm and a 220 Trophy derivative spitting out 162kW and 260Nm (280Nm with overboost) - figures that out-muscle rivals such as the 141kW Polo GTi and 147kW Fiesta ST 200. In case you were wondering, the numbers in the badges refer to the outputs in horsepower.

Each RS variant is mated to a six-speed EDC dual clutch transmission with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifts. With the assistance of launch control the Clio RS Trophy’s able to sprint to 100km/h in just 6.6 seconds and run to a 235km/h top speed, says Renault, with the Lux just a whisker behind with its quoted figures of 6.7s and 230km/h.

Both versions get wheelspin-reducing electronic diffs that improve cornering traction by applying more engine torque to the front wheel with the most grip. Stiffened sports chassis ensure taut handling in the Clio RS duo, with the Trophy’s suspension further lowered and stiffened.

External styling is beefed up with a sportier front bumper, boot spoiler, rear diffuser, dual exhausts and a bank of additional fog and cornering LED lights in the front spoiler, laid out like a chequered flag. The Trophy version’s further accentuated by red brake callipers, 18 inch alloys (the Lux wears 17s), and a carbon-tipped Akrapovic system with a rortier sound.

An RS Monitor provides telemetry on acceleration times, g forces, lap times and engine data. Standard spec is generous and includes cruise control, navigation, a hands-free key card, park distance control, and body-hugging bucket seats (leather in the Trophy derivative).

I drove both models at the media launch in Cape Town and enjoyed their ability to cover fast, meandering roads. The turbocharged power felt appealingly frisky, with the emotion dialled up a couple of notches by the cheeky four-cylinder symphony. Sharp steering makes the little hatches scamper nimbly through roads that twist through the countryside like spaghetti, while the brakes take a reasonable amount of punishment without fading.

The six-speed EDC dual-clutch auto gearboxes sometimes get themselves a little tongue-tied in the cut-and-thrust driving of a mountain pass. Switching to manual gearchanging doesn’t really work on such twisty roads as the paddles are fixed in place on the steering column and you can only shift when the car’s pointed straight ahead.

Verdict

It is the Lux version that I find more appealing as an overall package despite its power deficit. The Trophy’s suspension is very jarring on less-than-smooth surfaces, and the car feels more like a track-day special. The Lux has a smoother ride on real-world roads while still handling with all the precision you’d need.

FACTS: Renault RS 200 EDC Lux (RS 220 EDC Trophy in brackets) 

Engine:1.6-litre, 4-cylinder turbopetrol
Gearbox:6-speed automated dual-clutch
Power:147 (162) kW @ 6050rpm
Torque:260 (260) Nm @ 2000rpm
0-100km/h (Claimed):6.7 (6.6) seconds
Top speed (Claimed):230 (235) km/h
Price:R379 900 (R419 900)
Warranty:5-year/150 000km
Maintenance plan:3-year/30 000km

ALTERNATIVES

Ford Fiesta ST 200147kW/320NmR339 900
Volkswagen Polo GTI auto141kW/250NmR376 000

Star Motoring

Follow me on Twitter @DenisDroppa

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